Be immersed in the natural beauty and rich history of the city of Astoria, Oregon. Situated along the Columbia River near the Pacific Ocean, Astoria boasts a variety of museums, historic forts, and maritime treasures for visitors of all ages. Between adventures, rest and relax at your home away from home, by booking a stay at one of many cozy Astoria vacation rentals. Check out the top family-friendly attractions in Astoria.
1. Walk Along the River
Soak in the beauty and diversity of Astoria’s riverfront with a walk along the Astoria Riverwalk. At the Port of Astoria, kids can spot hundreds of ships on the water, something that interests young and old alike. You get amazing views of the river and Astoria-Megler Bridge. This 4.1-mile bridge steel cantilever bridge runs from Oregon to Washington and is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. Snap a few photos of the bridge while you wander the Riverwalk. Sea lions frequently sun themselves on docks along the walk, much to the delight of kids and adults. Stop at cafes, restaurants, and shops along the way. If you have young kids, push them in a stroller as you wander the Riverwalk, so you can cover more ground.
2. Visit a Maritime Museum
The Columbia River Maritime Museum displays over 30,000 artifacts and 20,000 photos that tell the story of the Columbia River area’s maritime history. The nationally renowned museum focuses on the dangers of the Columbia River Bar, which can experience 40-foot waves during storms. One display depicts a U.S. Coast Guard rescue boat riding hazardous waves. Interactive exhibits keep your kids engaged, so they learn in a fun way. Just outside the museum, you can step aboard a floating lighthouse called Lighthouse Columbia.
3. Explore Historic Forts
The Astoria area features many historic points of interest, including forts. Visit Fort Stevens State Park to explore the historic military fort on the grounds. You can also check out a shipwreck and enjoy nature on the trails, beach, and Coffenbury Lake. Fort Clatsop is another site that sits along the Lewis and Clark River. While the original fort is no longer there, a recreation of the structure is available for you to tour. Rangers dress in period clothes to guide you through the grounds. This immersive experience is suitable for kids of all ages.
4. Climb the Astoria Column
Enjoy stunning views when you climb to the top of the Astoria Column. The tower stands 600 feet above sea level and gives you views of Astoria, Young’s Bay, Mt. Ranier, the Astoria-Megler Bridge, the Columbia River, and many other landmarks. A hand-painted frieze circles the tower in a spiraling design and pays tribute to the westward expansion. It takes 164 spiraling stairs to reach the top observation deck, but the views are worth it for kids old enough to handle the climb. Buy gliders for your kids in the gift shop to fly from the top of the Column, or take the gliders back to your vacation rental to extend the fun.
5. Take a Trolley Ride
Climb onto the popular Astoria Trolley to see the town from a different perspective. The trolley runs along the riverfront on old train tracks, giving it a charming feel. Kids enjoy the train-like ride and the ever-changing scenery. Guides narrate the trip, so you get an overview of points of interest. The 3-mile, hour-long trip is long enough to give you a quality experience yet short enough to hold the attention of younger kids.
6. Check Out History Museums
Flavel House Museum fills a Queen Anne home built in 1886. Older kids enjoy touring the house with its six intricately carved fireplaces, medallions, and crystal chandeliers. Well-preserved furniture and decor help you visualize the home in its original state.
Kids of all ages enjoy a visit to the Heritage Museum housed in the town’s old city hall. Exhibits walk you through the rich history of Clatsop County with both temporary and permanent exhibits. Check out the historic artifacts with your kids, and peek at the reconstructed saloon that gives a nod to the Prohibition era.
7. Learn About the Fishing Industry
Stop by Pier 39 to visit the Bumble Bee Cannery Museum to catch a glimpse of life as a fisherman. The museum is housed in the oldest standing cannery building along the Columbia River. Wooden gillnet boats anchor the permanent display in the museum. You can also walk into an industrial freezer and check out old equipment, photos, and artifacts that tell the story of commercial fishermen. Some displays are better suited for older kids, but even young kids can enjoy the boats and other items on display. Cook fresh fish in your vacation rental in tribute to the fishermen you learn about at the museum.
8. See a Waterfall
Take a short trek south of Astoria to marvel at Youngs River Falls. The 54-foot waterfall cascades over rocks to the pool of water below the falls. If your kids are fans of “Free Willy 2” or “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3,” the waterfall may look familiar. It’s featured in both films. Many people swim in the pool at the base, so pack swimming suits for older kids who can safely swim in open water.
9. Learn About Oregon’s Film History
Although it’s far from Hollywood, Oregon plays host to many movie crews who use its picturesque scenery in films. You can learn about that history at the Oregon Film Museum in Astoria. Ideal for older kids, this museum gives your budding film buffs a chance to see memorabilia from several movies filmed in the state. “The Goonies” is one of the most popular movies, which you can explore in the Goonie Gallery exhibit. Kids can also see how major motion pictures are made. Bring a copy of “The Goonies” on your trip, so you can watch it when you get back to your vacation rental.